One of the things I hear over and over again, when it comes to our racial justice work here, is that we love to talk about things (over and over and over), and keep offering consciousness raising, but if that's all that we do it's really empty posturing.
I get that. (Although I do think that consciousness raising IS doing something for those who still don't understand concepts like white privilege, white supremacy, institutional racism, microagressions, and the like. The more of us folks who think of ourselves as white that "get it," the better for us all. This is part of the work that needs to be done.)
A big part of the work that is ours as a predominantly white congregation is simply showing up and listening to what the actual needs and visions of the African American community (and other communities of color). So here are some things you can do ...
- Join the NAACP and attend their meetings on the 2nd Monday of the month ... and listen. (Get involved as it's called for).
- Go to the next African American Town Hall at Tonsler Park on Sunday April 17th (5:30) ... and listen. (Get involved as it's called for.)
- Stop by the Racial Justice table in the Social Hall following Sunday morning services and pick up an article or essay about the ongoing conversation about race that is happening in our country now.
- Keep up to date with what's happening in the #Black Lives Matter movement.
- Visit the website Ferguson National Response Network, which is a "listing of planned response events for #Ferguson and all police brutatlity & racial injustice nationwide." (This might be a good source of ideas for us to consider ...)
- Attend a meeting of our Racial Justice Task Force (which meets at 7:00 pm on the 3rd Sunday of the month) and see how your energy and interests might best serve.
- Sign up for the weekly email from University and Community Action for Racial Equity (UCARE) which will keep you up to date on things going on in our community.
- If you're on Facebook, "like" the Black Professionals of Charlottesville community page for much the same reason.
- Join the UU organization Allies for Racial Equity, and "like" their Facebook page. While you're at it, you could join the Facebook pages for Are UU Awake, Black Lives UU, UUs Resisting New Jim Crow & Mass Incarceration. Here again, these are largely places for those of us who are seen as white to listen and learn. Still, the discussions happening within our Association are important, and there are many opportunities to get involved in doing things that make a difference.
- Go to the Jefferson School and visit the permanent exhibit, Pride Overcomes Prejudice and learn about the African American history of Charlottesville.
- Download the digital app from the Jefferson School and take a self-guided walk through that history. (Android and iOS)
- Attend the Unveiling of the historic marker for the Daughters of Zion Cemetery on Sunday, May 29 at 2:00pm (There will be a reception afterward at Barrett Early Learning Center.)
Remember, we are TJMC. Each and every one of us. None of us needs to wait for "the church" to do something, because "the church" is us. On the other hand, we, as a congregation, are doing work in the community:
- RevWik is developing personal relationships with, among others: Pastor Lehman Bates at Ebenezer Baptist Church; Rev. Alvin Edwards, at Mt. Zion Baptist Church; Charlene Greene at the Charlottesville Office of Human Rights; Imam Tyler Roach of the Islamic Society of Central Virginia; and our new Vice Mayor, Wes Bellamy. One of the reasons is to lay stronger foundations on which to build greater opportunity for TJMC to work in partnership with people and groups in the African American Community. (Of course, people like Elizabeth Breeden, Pete Armetta, Edith Good, Sara Gondwe, and others have had these relationships for years!)
- We are already active participants in the Back to School Bash, the Thanksgiving Basket Drive, and the annual MLK Community Celebration, among other things. While we are active participants, we could always be more active.
- IMPACT, which you hear so much about, strives to make a real difference for the entire Charlottesville/Albemarle community, and our involvement makes us part of the largest interfaith, multiracial group in our area. (IMPACT's annual Nehemiah Action will be on May 3rd. Help TJMC demonstrate our commitment to justice for all in our community by saying "yes" when asked to attend the Action!)
We are doing a lot as a congregation. We could be doing more. Many of our members are doing a lot. There is room for more people to get involved. TJMC is a large enough congregation that it's simply not possible for any one person to know everything that's going on here. But if you feel you're done talking and having your consciousness raised and want to roll up your sleeves and do something (besides the things suggested here), contact Sara Gondwe, who convenes the Racial Justice Steering Committee, or contact RevWik.